Friday, 30 April 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I join others in passing on my condolences to Senator Mullen on the death of his father. I know my colleagues in Fianna Fáil will also join me in sending on those condolences. It is my first time in the House with my colleague, Senator Horkan. It is great to have him back.I wish to tell colleagues about an amazing brave lady who gave a presentation to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence yesterday, Ghufran Khoulani. She is a Syrian refugee living in Ireland. She bravely spoke of her brother who was disappeared in Syria. Later she learned he was illegally detained. She learned this because of a man called Caesar, a defector who had been an official forensic photographer for the Syrian military police, had managed to smuggle out photographs of the bodies of thousands of detainees. She recognised her brother, Muhammad, in the Caesar photographs and joined with other families who also recognised loved ones in forming the Caesar Families Association. She made her presentation to highlight the issues on the ground in Syria today. She wanted to tell us about the widespread arbitrary detention, the enforced disappearance, torture and extrajudicial killings used brutally by the Syrian regime. Ghufran Khoulani asked all committee members to bring this to everyone's attention. I would like the Leader to seek a debate in the House on the current situation in Syria. Alarmingly, Denmark has suggested that it is a safe place for refugees to return. She argues against that, having knowledge of what is happening there on the ground.
My second issue has been raised in the House before, in particular by my colleague Deputy Higgins, namely, vaccine equality. We need to ensure such equality for healthcare across the world, as well as ensuring that we do not leave space for new variants to develop. What can we do? We can subscribe to COVAX, with its motto "no one is safe until everyone is safe", we can donate surplus supplies of vaccines to developing countries and can make financial contributions. One thing that we could do, and which we should debate here, is the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, TRIPS, waiver campaign. We need to debate whether we should waive intellectual property rights for Covid vaccines for the acute phase or for the duration of the pandemic.